Archived Story

Christmas comes but once a year

Published 9:12am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Column: Tales from Exit 22

“The best thing about Christmas is that it comes but once a year.”

That’s what a woman told me while I was ringing the bells for the Salvation Army.

I know the woman. She’s a good person, nice to all. She put money in the kettle. She was just suffering from seasonal exhaustion.

Christmas does come but once a year, but like it or not, it comes. We might as well be merry.

It could be argued that occurring but once a year is the best thing about Christmas — in a good way. However, I can think of many “best” things about Christmas.

I recall being a young boy trying to follow the rules. Be good, get stuff. Search for loopholes.

Then an older child told me that there was no Santa Claus.

It began innocently enough.

“Speak of the devil. We were just talking about how dumb you are,” said a neighbor boy as I walked by.

He was always kidding around. Especially since the day I asked him if snowmen could smell anything other than carrots.

“I’ll bet you still think there is a Santa Claus,” he added with a sneer that would have made Snidely Whiplash proud.

I smiled dimly.

“Well, there’s no Santa Claus,” he hit me with the news as if he were an investigative reporter for “60 Minutes.”

No Santa Claus? I couldn’t believe that. I had trust issues. Where did those presents come from if there was no Santa? He added that my father was Santa Claus. It was apparent that the neighbor boy had done his research. I had to sit down. It was hard to believe. Dad was Santa? Dad, who complained that the quiet toys always broke first. I couldn’t picture my father getting into a sleigh and flying around the world delivering gifts to all the boys and girls. I needed to ask where he kept the flying reindeer and if I could have one. I would have enjoyed flying to Sunday School on my very own reindeer. It would have been interesting to hear Pastor Larson explain that. It frightened me that my father knew who was naughty or nice. Ho, ho, ho.

After this revelation, it was an experience to accompany Dad/Santa to see the pine broker to buy a tree. To Dad, a perfect tree was one that still had half its needles. Men, most of whom were named Junior, who should have been selling used cars, operated the Christmas tree lots. These evergreen enterprises are not abundant today, but in those days of yore, a tinsel tosser had choices. Dad bought the cheapest tree. By the time we arrived home, the tree had shed the rest of its needles. At least I could be sure that my father was not the Christmas tree, too. That was one of the best things.

We had Yuletide traditions in those thrilling days of yesteryear. Food filled our minds. We dreamed of a wide Christmas. Grandma gave the boys their Christmas haircuts and then we sat down to eat turkey with all the trimmings.

Today, we have different Christmas traditions. We watch a favorite Christmas movie. I like the one about slicing onions. It always makes me cry. My wife suggests a bigger TV would be nice. I tell her that if she wants a bigger TV, she should sit closer to the one we have.

I send Christmas cards to both the naughty and the nice. Christmas letters bring remarkable news. Photos show that people do begin to resemble their pets, but that’s no excuse for what Aunt Agatha did in the park. Each year, she sends the same card reading, “I was going to enclose a check, but I had already sealed the envelope.”

I shopped with love and difficulty. I stared at popular $10 gift items that were on sale for $20. Christmas is a good time to buy thermometers. They are lower then. Each Christmas, I’m reminded that everyone needs pliers. While my wife hunted for bargains, I hunted for places to sit.

My wife, The Queen B, hinted that she wanted something shiny to put on her finger. I got her fingernail polish.

As I rang the bells and checked my field guide to stray shopping carts, I realized that it’s all about the season — and lip balm.

What’s the best thing about Christmas? It’s different for everyone.

I’m counting the best things about Christmas. I’m up to 41,539.

I wish you the best Christmas filled with what you like best about it.


Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.